Sunday, March 08, 2009

Tips for Finding German Genealogy Records for Your German-American Ancestor

After I posted Tips for Finding Your German Immigrant Ancestor's Hometown in Germany last month, someone asked me what the next step was. She already had the name of her immigrant ancestor's hometown and didn't know where to look for further research. So here are some suggestions that may be helpful...

German Genealogy Records at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City
I usually start a German genealogy research project by checking the catalog of the LDS Family History Library (FHL) to see if they have any microfilmed records for the place where my German ancestor lived. Doing a "Place Search" in their online catalog for the name of the town can tell you whether they have microfilmed records available at the library for that town. You may also want to search for the broader region or for nearby towns.

Be aware that other German towns across Germany may have the same or similar names as the town you're looking for. To help find the correct location you might try checking German maps or German gazetteers.

If the FHL has the microfilmed records you need, you can order the microfilm rolls for viewing from many local LDS Family History Centers for a fee (some German microfilms may not circulate in Europe). Church records are often used for doing genealogy research in Germany so it is helpful to know your ancestor's religious affiliation. If your ancestral family's place of residence doesn't have a church they may have gone to one in a nearby town.

German Genealogy Records in Germany (if not available at the FHL)
If the Family History Library does not have the records you need, then you can try writing letters or emails to local parishes, civil or religious archives, or civil registration offices in Germany. The book, Ancestors in German Archives: A Guide to Family History Sources, can be a helpful reference (try your local library). Some German archives have websites. Many of these are listed in the book, or you might try a Google search for the name of the archive you need. This directory may also be helpful: Deutsche Archive im Internet -- try the Staatliche Archive (Staatsarchive) and Kirchenarchive (Church archives) listed there.

The Germany Letter Writing Guide from the FHL may be helpful for writing to German parishes and archives. There will usually be fees for any research requests you have (even if records are not found). In some cases, you may want to hire a local researcher in Germany, especially if you need extensive research done.

Is Anything Online? - German Genealogy Records on the Internet
Some indexes to German genealogy records are available online. Here's a handy starting point: Online German Genealogy Indexes and Databases. You might also try Google searches for the German town or parish.

Disclaimer: you may not be able find records for your German ancestor using this guide. These are merely suggestions.

The next article in this series: How I Found Some Genealogy Records for My German Ancestors

No comments: